B P: Mindfire, Bionicle Paracosmos Bonus Epic -- Murder Mystery Contest entry
B P: Mindfire, Bionicle Paracosmos Bonus Epic -- Murder Mystery Contest entry
Jun 23 2008, 10:38 AM
BZPower Staff Writer
Group: Prem Ref Masters/Forum Leaders
Joined: 14-March 03
Member No.: 5195
Makuta Antroz saw the boat just nine minutes before noon by the clock machine he carried. The red Makuta was flying over a dome with nothing but a protowater sea. No islands, nothing. There was no sky illusion. There wasn't even a sun-hole. It was as black here as last night. A perfect spot for Destral.
The boat was long and high, made totally out of protometal. Twin propellers at the back drove it. There were masts with sails, apparently as backup for the engines. Flying closer, he saw six Matoran, a Turaga, and a white reptilian being.
He fired a bolt of plasma into the sky. The three other Makuta he'd brought turned towards his signal and came.
When they were next to him, they flew down as a group to the boat, which came to a stop just a little bit inside the sea gate. No doubt they realized the open sea of the dome would be a deadly place for a boat when Destral came.
Antroz landed on the metal deck. The other three kept flying, circling the boat.
"I take it you're this Turaga Takanuva?" he asked a white and gold elder.
"I am," the Turaga said. "And you?"
"You don't need to know my name. We're just here to make sure you don't have any weapons."
Takanuva looked hesitant. "Icarax said nothing about leaving weapons behind. How can we be expected to trust your Brotherhood that much?"
"Fine," Antroz said. "So I lied. I'm here to make sure you have no Toa. And nothing else we don't want on Destral. You okay with that?"
Takanuva nodded. "Search the boat."
"First," Antroz said. "I wanna know who your crew is." His eyes fell on the orange-masked Matoran. That staff. There were three tiny bolts of blue flames spinning around inside the two prongs of the silver and orange staff. It looked very, very elemental.
"I thought we agreed no Toa?" he spat.
"Do I look like a Toa?" the Matoran said. "This is the Blue Fire Staff. You might have heard of it from the Makuta of Metru Nui -- or maybe he didn't deem you worthy to know? The fire is in the weapon, not me."
Antroz scowled. "Then leave it behind."
"Hujo's staff may be needed," Takanuva said quietly. "You're facing an enemy that can kill Makuta. If we are right that Taureko is innocent, the blue fire might be all that can stop the real murderer."
Antroz didn't answer. Takanuva was more right than he knew -- the third murder had demonstrated clearly that the killer was capable of a lot more than a mere Matoran. No slave had ever been able to rip an Exo-Toa limb from limb. Antroz had to admit the news had sent shivers through his antidermis.
But then the murders had stopped when they posted thirteen Makuta by the Prison Portal.
"It doesn't break the deal's terms," Takanuva said. "If you Makuta don't give him a reason to use it on you, he won't. Hujo understands more than anyone here, even you, why the Makuta must not be harmed."
Antroz decided to change the subject for a moment. "Who's the lizardhead?"
"My name is Bhukasa," the being said. "I'm a merchant that lives on Metru Nui. This is my boat."
Antroz nodded slowly. "So you have no value to the investigation?"
Bhukasa just narrowed his eyes. "I have value to this vessel, which will be home base for the investigation. What are you asking?"
Antroz smiled. "I ask this. In return for allowing this 'Hujo' to enter Destral, you go to a well-guarded prison cell as collateral, until the investigation is over. Then you will be free to leave, assuming your friends don't get us too angry."
Bhukasa showed no reaction. Takanuva flinched. The Ga-Matoran looked like she was going to say something, but apparently thought better of it when Antroz faced her. She looked at the floor.
"Well? Do you want to help your scummy friend out or not? Icarax put me in charge of entrance negotiations -- you agree to my terms or you sail right back to Metru Nui."
The Turaga's hand tightened around his staff at his description of Taureko. But he simply looked at Bhukasa. The reptilian being slowly nodded.
"Excellent!" Antroz said. "Very well, then, you can come," he said to the orange-masked Matoran.
He saw a purple flash out of the corner of his eye. A tiny sphere of bright purple light had appeared, hovering a few bios over the water. Then it rapidly spread out to the size of Destral, pushing water away in a massive circular wave. The light faded, revealing the island.
He asked about the other Matoran. He confiscated the energy packs. When he touched them, his mental access to the device told him the only things stored in energy form were harmless tools and food. But no reason to give them an easy way to steal from the Brotherhood -- one touch is all it would take to store something and hide it somewhere else. Then he began the search of the lower decks.
It would be a thorough search. He could tell from Takanuva's eyes they were hiding something.
Taureko awoke with a scream.
In his dreams, a far worse version of the Unseen Beast he'd imagined so long ago had been hunting him. It was a persistent nightmare he'd been cursed with ever since the deaths of Fehrono and Ohito. He tried to shake the image of the jaw of metal teeth bigger than a Koro coming at him, devouring the ground behind him.
But the image was glued to his eyes.
He stood up, brushing dirt off his armor. He had slept the night on the floor of a cave hidden behind another rock. Since he'd brought nothing with him other than the sword, it was all he could do. His muscles were still stiff and he thought he might have slept in. But there was no light down here to tell.
He pushed the rock aside. It was time to continue his search for the scroll. As he crawled out, his thoughts went back to the past again.
"Just keep the blank expression on your face," the Ta-Matoran slave said. "If you don't attract attention, this is probably the best place for Brotherhood slaves. We have far better quarters than other islands, we eat far better. If you can get past the risk of being chosen for an experiment, this is slave heaven! Don't take it for granted."
Taureko had arrived on Destral less than a months ago. Makuta Okrelox had inspected him and about twenty other slaves that came on his barge, and sent them off the work in a factory. The sight of the Makuta responsible for his capture had enraged him, doubly so knowing the slime-in-armor was his master now.
He had to admit. His cell cot had a cushion now. There was no whip at his back all the time. He had to lift things, but they made sense -- they were parts for Makuta Okrelox's various experiments. Okrelox had no good will towards his slaves, but he would rather have them making something useful than wasting time like Xakmuluk's slaves.
He'd moved up from the bottom of the gutter to one spot above the worst scum imaginable. It was something.
"I know," he said. "It's just, back where I came from? I was doing something important. Fighting the Makuta. Feeding my people. Maybe more. Here... what will these parts be turned into? What device to help the Makuta enslave more and more of our fellow Matoran?"
"And you're saying, it would be better to go on strike?" The Ta-Matoran turned back to his factory machine. "You have any idea what they'd do to us?"
Taureko fed a piece of metal into a stamping machine. His point was more, maybe their sacrifice would be worth it. But then, they'd be two slaves less. Whoopee. They'd just be replaced by less honor-obsessed slaves, right?
"I don't know," he said. "I'm not sure what I'm saying. It's just wrong."
"Everybody knows that. The Makuta don't care and you know it."
Taureko worked on in silence.
"I think your best bet is to try to escape."
"Keep working," the Ta-Matoran said. "There are ways out of Destral, you know. How do you think it floats so well? Caves. Gobs of 'em. There's more air inside Destral than rock."
"And... you know these caves?"
"Yep. I've been outside the fortress walls at night. I know three exits the Makuta haven't found yet."
Taureko wanted to grin. But he didn't. "You know, some people tried to escape with me once, and two of them ended up dead. I've never tried since."
"Did they all die?"
"Well... no. One escaped. Plus a nonslave that helped us. As far as I know, anyways."
"Then you should take hope from it. It's possible."
"Okay, but... if you've been outside the fortress, that's obviously not enough. You're still on Destral."
"A group of us have been spreading the word first." He explained about the timing needed to jump off Destral just before it teleported. "But lately, we've noticed Destral has stopped teleporting."
Taureko motioned for silence. A Visorak overseer was nearing them. He waited, listening to the sounds of the various machines throughout the factory. If Destral's teleporter was broken, that would ruin any escape plans, wouldn't it? How did it teleport, anyway?
When the Visorak was far enough away, he asked.
"We don't know. None of the slaves are allowed into the teleporting chamber. It's a cavern deeper than any of the others the Makuta are using, sealed off totally from the rest of the cave networks. There's a double layer of locked doors you have to get past to enter. But we overheard Okrelox talking. It seems the old teleporter is beyond repair, and cannot be replaced.
"Okrelox believes he can make a new one, though. They're calling it the 'Threshold Project.' That's all I know, except that we're making parts for it right now. Some of my friends have secretly included a beacon in one of the parts. When it activates, it means the part has been installed. They think it will be one of the last few to be installed. They've got a receiver for it hidden in one of their cells. It's checked at every opportunity.
"Theoretically, as soon as the beacon lights, if we all make it to the coast in time, we can wait until a purple light appears, and jump. We should pass through the purple energy, and land in the water. Then Destral will disappear, and we'll be free to swim to safety. The only problem is, there might be sharks, or worse. We're still working on that part. Also, we have ways to pick the cell locks. If you want, I'll show you the escape routes tonight."
Taureko nodded. It was a sound plan. He would risk the sharks, he thought, if they would. The Ta-Matoran was right. Someone had escaped last time. Maybe some of them would this time. Maybe he'd be one of them.
Later that night, the Ta-Matoran picked his cell's lock and they snuck out of the building.
"Make sure the guards don't see you." The Ta-Matoran motioned for him to flatten himself against the wall. Several Visorak were walking by the other buildings, making quiet noises at each other in their own language. The slave waited until they rounded a corner.
Then they ran to a supply hut. The Matoran showed him a fake lower shelf with an old decorative rug on it. "That leads just outside the fortress wall to the south. This is the most secret way out, to be used ONLY if you can't make it to the other two, understood?"
"Also, if you do use it, mind the watchtower by the exit, and flee to another nearby cave."
Next they went to a building right next to the fortress wall to the north. Here the ground was more uneven. The Matoran led him down a cave that opened diagonally down, the entrance not visible from any watchtower.
"Stop." The slave held up his hand. "Now, this is an old escape route. I know what you're thinking -- it's so obvious the Makuta must know of it. They do. They blocked it off a long ways down, leaving the entrance disguised as a real escape route. See that square crystal inlaid in the wall ahead?"
Taureko looked. It was almost impossible to see, but as his eyes adjusted to the dark, he saw the lower corner of the glasslike crystal behind a jut of rock in the left wall. "Yeah."
"That's a crystal lens. It tunnels through the rock and ends up as a screen in the nearest watchtower. See this pointy rock jutting out of the dirt in front of us?"
Taureko saw it, and nodded.
"That marks the farthest one of us has gotten before being spotted. If you cross it, you're seen before you can get to the other side and an alarm scares the wits out of you. Then guards come. NEVER pass the pointy stone. Clear?"
"Clear, but why would we cross it anyways if it's sealed?"
The Ta-Matoran grinned. "Because I outsmarted the Makuta. They never bothered to actually explore what's behind the seal. One tunnel actually loops back close to this spot. I took the liberty of digging through to it. We try not to use this one either because our meeting place is to the south." He reached down and slid a rock aside, revealing a tunnel barely large enough for a Matoran. "
Taureko smiled, impressed.
"You'll notice I took the sand away from this spot. Try not to track more onto it. If there's thick sand by these kinds of hidden entrances, you can only brush it back together realistically coming out, not going in. Remember that too, because I have more hidden tunnels like this all throughout the cave networks that must be properly hidden when possible."
"Wow, you've really thought this through."
The slave put the rock back. "Well, there's something else I haven't quite told you. I'm not actually coming with you."
Then it made sense. "This is your way of fighting the Makuta, isn't it? Helping others escape?"
The Matoran smiled, and led him back into the fortress. "It's the best way I can think of. I befriend other slaves, get them talking. If I sense the will it takes to escape -- and keep my secrets -- I help them do so. You have that will, more so than most."
"Do you always take groups? Or is that just because of the teleporter breaking?"
"Always groups, because every escape attempt requires a team to pass on the word about the timing. Also, if a guard ever catches us, there's more safety in numbers. You have no compunction about killing a Visorak or Rahkshi, right?"
Taureko shook his head. "Not if it's the only way to escape. I think my friends might have killed a Rahkshi or two last time. Visorak... well, I used to hunt Rahi bigger than them for food. They may be smarter, but they live to destroy."
They kept walking, ducking behind buildings and dodging guards as before.
"You know, I don't think you ever mentioned your name," Taureko said.
The Ta-Matoran gave a sad smile. "I learned a long time ago not to give out my name. If you ever hear Okrelox call me by name, you'll find out, but otherwise, just call me 'the Ta-Matoran' or whatever. A different slave did this before me, and it was his name being overheard in excited whispers too many times by guards that did him in."
Taureko smiled. "Brilliant. I'm Taureko, by the way."
The slave stopped. "Well here we are, Taureko."
They'd arrived at the central tower. The slave led him through a tight ventilation shaft. As they went in, Taureko thought he heard a muffled roar in the distance. He paused.
"Come on!" the Ta-Matoran said.
They came out in a factory cavern. "I know this place!" Taureko said. "This is the factory right next to ours, isn't it?"
"Yep. If you're working when one of the group or me tells you it's time, you would just take that moment to empty your stamper's excess metal in the hallway bin, and then just walk in here as if this was your assigned factory."
They made their way past tons and tons of machinery, towards the middle of the right wall. The slave ducked behind an especially large machine, offset just enough from the rock wall that a Matoran could slip easily in and out, and walked right in a cave opening.
"Slaves built these factories back before Destral had a teleporter," the Ta-Matoran said. "This particular cavern was never thoroughly checked by overseers. Administrative snafoo. The slaves that moved these machines in hid the hole straightaway and it hasn't been found since."
The Ta-Matoran then led him back towards the ventilation shaft, saying he would show Taureko around the cave networks tomorrow. It was time for him to go to another Matoran he suspected had the will to escape, one that had arrived just last week, he said.
The Ta-Matoran himself lived somewhere deep under the caves, he said -- someplace he didn't show anyone, on the off chance they couldn't be trusted.
Taureko was going to ask if any escape group slave had proven untrustworthy when he heard the growl.
He froze. The Ta-Matoran ducked behind a machine. Taureko didn't follow -- he was too surprised. That growl. He knew that growl. He'd heard it before. Where?
"Come on, Taureko!" the slave whispered. "Hide!"
There was a crashing sound. Machinery by the door. Taureko couldn't see whatever it was over the other machines next to him. Whatever it was was coming this way.
Another crash, closer. It scared him enough that he bolted, running behind a machine. Another crash. He went behind it.
Looked around. Where was the Ta-Matoran? Stupid! He'd ducked behind the wrong machine.
"Taureko?" came a distant whisper. It came from in front of him.
But hadn't the slave been behind him?
"Come on, Taureko!"
Another crash. He walked towards the whisper. It came again, beckoning him farther away, around other machines. On he went.
"Hurry, Taureko!" the whisper came again.
So on he kept going. Around machine after machine.
How far was safe, he wondered? And why was the slave repeating Taureko's name over and over?
"This should far enough, Taureko!" the whisper said.
Then he saw a yellow-orange wing behind a machine. He froze.
Makuta Okrelox's face rose above the machine. "Come on, Taureko," he whispered. "You've got to hurry back to your cell, Taureko. You shouldn't be wandering in the factories at night, Taureko. You can never leave, Taureko."
A loud crash and a scream behind him. He whirled, in time to see machines flying into the air. A roar. The same roar he'd thought he'd heard earlier.
Taureko glanced back. Okrelox was gone.
He looked around desperately. There was a long metal pole laying on a machine, a cleaning device. He grabbed it and ran towards the crashing. On the way he pushed it diagonally into a stamper and pressed the button. The machine sliced the pole's cleaning apparatus off, leaving a slanted sharp end. He ran on.
Suddenly a red shape flew at him. He ducked aside. Glanced back.
It was the Ta-Matoran. The slave slammed into a tall machine so hard he knocked it over. Taureko tried to cry out his name, but didn't know what to cry. He rushed over.
The slave's heartlight was beating erratically. Taureko ignored another crashing sound a ways behind him. "Hold on," he said, reaching down to pick him up.
"No! Leave me! Get out!" the slave said. Then his heartlight stopped. As his eyes faded to black, the Ta-Matoran whispered something.
Taureko barely heard it because he was saying, "No, no, stay with me!" He wasn't sure he'd heard right.
Then a crash shook the ground under him. He whirled, readying his makeshift spear, waiting for whatever it was to come around the last machine between them.
Instead, its teeth appeared on all sides of the machine and chomped down.
Taureko's eyes fell on a beast whose head was all a jaw, teeth made of metal, catlike claws and tail, sleek wings, spikes down its back. The Unseen Beast from his nightmares.
Then he simply dropped the spear and ran screaming back to his cell.
When he'd woken up that morning, Taureko thought the whole experience was just a nightmare. There must not have been a Ta-Matoran. Makuta Okrelox must not have whispered to him. Those tunnels were figments of his imagination. The unseen beast hadn't really damaged that factory.
He knew now that he'd been wrong. The tunnels were real, obviously. He later learned that Okrelox had enlisted the help of Makuta Vishrahk in a ploy to break Taureko's spirit.
She had taken the form of the Unseen beast, having previously read his mind while he slept, and gone to his cell that night, killed all the Matoran that saw her, but then roared in rage when she discovered his cell was empty. She'd immediately headed to the factories -- the Makuta had noticed Matoran kept disappearing while working. She came in just after they got out of the cave. Then she killed the Ta-Matoran and terrified Taureko.
They hadn't discovered the tunnel, thankfully. They must have assumed the slaves were going through the vents only. Though since coming to steal the scroll, Taureko had discovered that it and the one with the crystal lens were both blocked now. The rug cave was the only one left.
But Okrelox's ploy had worked.
Not knowing about Vishrahk at the time, Taureko vowed to himself to never try to escape again. Another member of the group had come to him a week later, asking if he knew where the Ta-Matoran was. But he refused to say anything -- he just gave the blank stare, as if he'd been broken.
Because he had been broken. He convinced himself that thinking only led to pain, no matter what -- to insanity. The only way to hold onto his sanity was to become a pure worker.
Everything became about the movements his hands had been trained to do. When before he would analyze anything that confused him to figure out its mystery, he simply let the confusion run rampant in his mind. After a while, even that stopped because he stopped wondering.
He knew he had come to the brink of insanity that night. The Ta-Matoran had to be real, and that factory had been closed for repairs the very next day -- and yet whatever really happened, his insanity had fed him a false version of it. A monster from his own imagination could not have been there. Okrelox hadn't really been there. The Ta-Matoran could not have whispered what he did as he died.
Taureko still remembered it clearly. He'd figured it out as he fled, realized as he discovered he was on the brink of insanity that he had indeed heard it correctly. It was that, more than anything, that broke him.
The slave had said, "Go to Hykehra's cell."
Jun 24 2008, 04:37 PM
BZPower Staff Writer
Group: Prem Ref Masters/Forum Leaders
Joined: 14-March 03
Member No.: 5195
Mutran tapped the Kanoka material trigger. Its power activated. Rahi from all over beamed inside the Prison Portal in just seconds.
"There's stage one," Mutran said. "The Portal cannot beam in Makuta now. I've rewritten it to only beam in Rahi. Unfortunately the Portal only works one way, so we'll have to clear these Rahi out before I can start on stage two." He didn't mention that stage two would not be to remove the Rahi protocol, but instead to programming it to beam in Icarax. It was still possible Icarax was listening in somehow and he didn't want to risk it.
Stage three would be provided when Chirox finished the scroll detector. He'd be able to beam the scroll in directly, he suspected. Icarax would be on hand to witness it, ironically.
Mutran stood up. He motioned for the three Matoran to follow him out of Okrelox's lab. Once outside, he asked Bitil to come in and help deal with all the Rahi, and asked the other guards to make sure the Matoran didn't move from the loop hallway.
Then he walked back in and called on his power of Rahi control.
Bhukasa couldn't sleep. The stone cot of the prison was incredibly uncomfortable. And too small. He had tried in vain to find a comfortable position. Then he'd given up and laid down on the floor.
His eyes were closed and he trying to ignore the pain in his neck when he heard the sound.
It was a powerful liquid sound, like gurgling rapids, mixed with a deep metallic shrieking hum, like the sound a blade made when it was being sharpened.
He opened his eyes. Had one of the Rahi made it?
As soon as his eyes opened, he felt the fear. It felt like the Cosmos Lurch. Sheer terror, welling up inside him. But different. Sharper -- painful. It was so strong he couldn't move a muscle.
The Rahi in the room sounded alarmed. Then the feeling passed. With it, Bhukasa thought he saw a faint reddish-orange light fading. When he felt normal again, though, he saw no such light. Had he imagined it?
The Rahi settled down. Then he heard more Rahi noises. The prison's main entrance opened, and in walked Makuta Mutran and Bitil, a herd of all kinds of animals behind them. They carried several sea creatures. They walked towards a tank that already held several such creatures and placed them inside.
Bhukasa stood. He watched as Bitil reached out towards a cell gate.
The yellow Makuta froze in place as soon as he touched it. Fire burst from his eyes and he screamed.
Mutran jumped back in surprise, bumping another prison's metal bars. The same thing happened to him.
Bhukasa shouted at them to let go. He looked around frantically. The scroll of languages was laying inside one of the cells, rolled up, touching the metal. A faint trace of its red-orange fire ran up the metal bars to a horizontal support brace. Metal connected every cell in the prison to the other. The "mindfire" had turned the whole prison into another Makuta death trap.
He thought maybe he could call up his power of energy draining to channel the mindfire away. But then he'd give away his real purpose for being here!
Bitil jerked away finally, and ran screaming gibberish from the room. Mutran did so as well. Bhukasa stood there, wondering if he even would have been able to help. It was too late now. But how had the scroll gotten in the room?
He heard the alarm sound, and Mutran scream gibberish over the loudspeaker as a gelatinous mass of fiery, reddish orange energy rose up from behind a Rahi in a far cell. Immediately the fear took hold of him again.
His muscles convulsed, and his vision went blurry. He saw the energy mass slide through the air over towards the scroll. It enveloped the scroll.
As he fell to the floor and it turned to face him, he vaguely registered that it carried in its mass a few grenade-like devices, and a rectangular device with a gunlike handle.
Kewonga burst into a run at the sound of Mutran's voice over the loudspeaker. Another attack.
The guards shouted at him to stay put. He ignored them. They shot a power of slowness at him. It hit, and he slowed to a jog.
"Mutran has been attacked, can't you hear?" Tlenoh said. "Kewonga can save his life! Let him go!"
But then Mutran appeared at the tunnel's other end, running for his life towards Kewonga. He was still screaming gibberish. The guards released the slowness power.
Kewonga rushed to meet the Makuta, calling on his mask's power of Healing.
Hujo tapped the Songsphere in just the right way. Blue energy enveloped him, hidden inside his illusion of invisibility.
The Songsphere took off, flying sideways above the grass. Instead of forming a spherical bubble around him as it usually did, it simply wrapped ropes of blue light around him, so that he floated behind it like a tail of sorts.
It flew directly towards the central tower. Around towards the back it curved. He saw a vent with its grate laying on the grass below.
The sphere zoomed in without hesitating.
Faster than a Vako's charge it twisted him this way and that through the vents, past several more removed grates.
Then down it flew.
Out a vent and into a large room.
There were two Makuta guarding Threshold. He caught a glimpse of a large spire made of dark gray rock in the center of the room, wreathed in purple electricity.
Then the sphere zoomed behind a series of pipes and into another open vent.
Then it stopped inside a metal room. The energy ropes lowered him to the ground and disappeared. The Songsphere folded back up.
He looked around. The room rumbled. A large fan right in front of him was blowing into a series of grates. The one he'd entered through was the only one with its grate off. Presumably, this was to give the murderer easy access in and out while flying. On the room's far wall, a single large grate with thick bars led to another cave network. The air intake.
There was a cot against one wall.
Next to it, a shelf. On it he saw nearly twenty red Matoran Kanohi masks. The home of the Ta-Matoran Taureko had once spoken of -- the freer of slaves so long ago.
A stone tablet depicting a super-steep mountain island was mounted on one wall. Next to it, he saw writing in an ancient language he didn't know, among symbols of the Brotherhood, a stone spire, and a scroll. A wriggling line connected the symbols and the mountain island. The line also connected to a group of cylindrical symbols.
This was Okrelox's plans for wiring Destral up to a collection of Prison Portals, Hujo realized. The Ta-Matoran must have got his hands on it at one point. All of the objects were connected, through Threshold, to this steep mountain island. Somehow this tablet -- or the room -- was tied to the songs of both that island and of Destral.
Hujo grabbed the plans, then remembered why he'd come. He looked around.
There was no sign of the murderer.
But there was a faint red light coming from the large grate at the room's back. As Hujo stared at it, he felt fear come into his mind.
He walked closer. The sense of fear grew stronger. He ducked down so he could see under the stalactites along the tunnels' ceiling.
A red energy symbol. An upside down question mark, like the ancient Matoran puncuation symbol. Ringed with a sparsely decorated circle of slightly dimmer red light. Hovering above the cave floor.
As soon as his eyes connected with it, Hujo was blown backwards with a crash into the metal bars shielding the giant fan machine. He looked at the ground, his heart racing with sheer terror.
This was the source of the Cosmos Lurch. It had the power to subvert the physics of his very existence. Nobody should ever have to look upon such a power.
His muscles wouldn't move. The sound of his collision echoed throughout the room -- probably throughout the building above. His muscles convulsed so violently one arm disconnected. It didn't hurt -- Matoran could take themselves apart and rebuild themselves this way -- but he lost control of his arm. Then a leg fell off.
His vision went dark, and he felt his heart pulsing erratically.
Desperately he called Blue Fire forth. Shining flames burst from the staff in his right hand. He sent the fire pouring right through the cave grate, melting it away.
The fire pummeled the red symbol. He felt the room shake in response. Metal heated up. The pile of Matoran Kanohi lit up. Physics changed so that even the powerless Matoran masks now had powers.
Hujo pumped more and more fire in.
The whole island shook, and the mask powers activated, shrinking parts of the room's wall, mutating masks, freezing other masks. The chaos tore the shelves apart, and the wall behind it. The metal closest to the cave was glowing red-hot.
Then the symbol burst.
The island stopped shaking. The masks went still. The room's metal cooled. Everything went back to normal.
Hujo quickly grabbed the tablet, reconnected his arm and leg, and grabbed the Songsphere. No doubt the murderer would immediately come to fight him. He feared he could not survive a confrontation with a being so powerful as to make something like the Cosmos Lurch symbol.
He tapped the song of Destral on the Songsphere.
Of course, he thought, cursing his stupidity. He only knew the song that came to Destral's fortress. In general. Even though this room had a special song, it was still inside the fortress.
Thinking fast, he remembered Destral was now floating offshore of Mata Nui. And how well he knew the song of his old home, Ta-Koro!
He tapped the sphere.
As he flew through Threshold's cavern, he saw the two guards disappear with purple flashes.
Kewonga thought about what he knew of the mindfire, his eyes closed and his hands holding Mutran's hands. It burned antidermis, and overloaded the mind with hundreds of languages at the same time. He told his mask to cure these effects.
The Kanohi Halehki's energy poured through Mutran's eyes into his antidermis inside. Kewonga felt the fiery energy inside. The mask healed the two symptoms. The symptoms then became a channel to the root cause -- the mindfire itself.
Like water the Halehki's power put out the mindfire. Kewonga spread the power all throughout Mutran's antidermis. Finally, he felt the last vestiges of the scroll's energy go out.
He opened his eyes.
Mutran calmed down. "That was close." Then a scowl came over his face.
Kewonga realized Mutran was thinking "Taureko" had targeted him now, apparently. This wasn't just a personal vendetta against a few Makuta. This was genocide.
Mutran's scowl faded. He stood, facing the Makuta guards, who had walked away from Okrelox's room in concern. Or in hope... either way.
Then Mutran's eyes widened. "Where's Bitil?"
The Makuta grabbed Kewonga by his arm and lifted him. He turned to run out the tunnel.
Bitil was stumbling towards them, mumbling nonsense under his breath. There was a crashing sound from the vents above them, and the island shook.
Mutran dropped Kewonga. The Le-Matoran's muscles felt weak. His mask activated wildly, trying to cure the air in front of him. Silence filled the room from Chirox's mask, and a ton of other mask powers activated.
A hundred different versions of Bitil appeared, crowding the tunnel, blocking the present Bitil's path.
Then the quake passed, and all the mask powers ceased. Bitil's past forms disappeared.
And the yellow Makuta died.
Kewonga rushed to him. He closed his eyes, trying to sense a consciousness left to heal.
He opened his eyes again and shook his head at Mutran.
It wasn't over. Nuhuri saw a bright purple flash from the loop hallway below.
Mutran and the other Makuta shouted in surprise, already running towards Okrelox's lab.
Nuhuri raced to beat them since she was closer, bursting through the soundshield just in time to see the trailing end of red-orange energy fly into the vent above the door.
She quickly scanned the dirt. The murderer had entered from the vent, hovered to the Prison Portal, and apparently reprogrammed it before activating it.
Two Makuta stood unmoving inside, surrounded by Rahi of all varieties. Mutran rushed over and tapped away at the control panel. Then he realized the repulsion power was gone. He ripped the power source out.
The screen went dead. The Makuta moved -- began screaming gibberish. Nuhuri saw Kewonga go up to them and take one Makuta's hand.
"Hold on, Revorahk!" Mutran shouted at the other one. "Imagine water in your mind, putting out the fire! That's how I held on. Kewonga will heal you next."
Icarax burst in, taking in what was happening. Mutran shouted a quick update to him. Icarax ran out. Soon his voice came over the loudspeaker. "I want all Makuta that don't normally live on Destral to evacuate immediately. Mata Nui Island is nearby. Fly to it. Get away from Threshold!"
Nuhuri watched the scene unfold, unmoving. For she had frozen in shock as soon as she saw the name under the latest program on the portal.
It read, "Taureko."
Hujo tried to relax as the Songsphere left Destral and filled out into its normal bubble shape. He'd gotten away from the murderer's lair, but now he was leaving the island he was supposed to be guarding.
Why would those two Makuta guards have been beamed away from Threshold unless--
He turned to look back at Destral, wishing in horror that there was an abort switch for the Songsphere.
A huge sphere of purple electricity enveloped the island, then shrunk and disappeared. Water around rushed in to fill the gap.
Hujo landed on the Ta-Wahi beach. His feet made no footprints under the Unknown sandals. A lot of good they did, he thought in dismay. He couldn't return them to Vakama now. The Turaga would be stuck on the boat. Hujo was on the island he had intended to come to anyways, but not without the scroll. Makuta were probably being killed again. Taureko was stuck in the middle of it all -- now beyond any help Hujo could give.
And who knew where the murderer was taking Destral?
Taureko opened the hatch. He had barely stepped inside when he felt his mask power switch on.
He hovered above the shaking ground for a moment. What was going on? He saw sparks inside the dark room before him.
Then the effect stopped and he landed on the ground.
Almost as soon, he felt confused. But he knew one thing. Bhukasa was in trouble and nobody else knew.
How did he know?
Taureko glanced into the dark room. He could make out a glasslike window into an even darker room, and machinery beneath the window. He was dying to know what the room was for.
But if there was a chance Bhukasa was dying, he had to do his best to save him.
He sealed the hatch back up. Ran to the ladder. His confusion grew as he climbed, and with it, a sense that he was taking the wrong step. One that would put him in danger too. But why? All he was going to do was warn someone on Takanuva's team and get out...
Takanuva sat up in bed. The boat was rocking. Why?
Kopeke and Vakama joined him in the hallway as the rocking calmed. They ran up on deck in time to see Macku running out the wheelhouse.
"Get to land!" she shouted. "Run!"
As the Miru-wearing Unknown named Surkahi followed them onto the top deck, Takanuva saw that the bay barrier had been opened. The sky was filled with purple electricity, and all the water around it was rushing down and away with nothing else to hold it in.
The boat ripped off most of its mooring lines. Half the dock ripped off with the rest. Then boat and dock together tumbled toward the purple electricity.
"Take my hand!" Surkahi shouted.
Nuhuri watched Mutran and the others rip the Prison Portal apart. Kewonga had healed the two Makuta guards, but the island had teleported before any Makuta could evacuate.
Mutran's plans of overthrowing Icarax appeared to be out the window now. What was worse, his mood towards the three Matoran had soured in the last few minutes. They glanced at each other nervously, realizing the point of the investigation was nearly moot, and Mutran's special offer was gone too.
They were three little Matoran in a room filled with angry, raging Makuta. What would happen if one of those Makuta decided to turn his or her anger towards them?
Mutran declared that the device in the Portal's floor was an antidermis/armor control inhibitor. He began to say that he had suspected something along those lines when something interrupted him.
Another Matoran had just run in the lab.
For a moment, Nuhuri didn't recognize him.
Then she did.
"Help!" Taureko shouted. "Bhukasa's been attacked in the prison! He might be dying!"
Everybody in the room froze. Nuhuri glanced at Mutran's face. The Makuta's jaw had dropped. The other guards glanced at him too. Nuhuri looked back at Taureko.
He looked... strangely calm. As if he had no reason to be otherwise, as if there was no order of instant execution. This was not the face of a murderer, she thought. He didn't seem to look differently at Mutran compared to anyone else, even though Mutran had just narrowly survived the scroll.
Yet all the evidence pointed towards Taureko.
Mutran seemed to feel the same way. The Makuta looked unsure. But he was definately angry.
Taureko looked suddenly as if he'd just now realized where he was. He looked around nervously at the Makuta facing him. None of them had moved just yet. Suddenly his face contorted in anger at them. This was where he had been twisted so long ago, Nuhuri knew. She began to wonder if he was totally sane.
But was he innocent? Or not? She felt strongly that it was up to her to decide, or the Makuta might kill him then and there.
Then Taureko simply glanced up at the air vent, and flew into it.
Where he had stood a second ago, Nuhuri saw a depression in the sand.
Jun 24 2008, 10:42 PM
BZPower Staff Writer
Group: Prem Ref Masters/Forum Leaders
Joined: 14-March 03
Member No.: 5195
Taureko flew through the vents, crying. He didn't even know why he was crying. Maybe it was because he'd hoped never to reveal that he could control his Noble Kadin. Maybe it was the sight of all those Makuta bearing down on him, murder in their eyes.
Maybe it was fear that he had killed the Makuta, that he had fallen prey to a split personality and with it he had even attacked his own friends.
It had happened before. As he flew on -- hearing Mutran's voice pronounce that his guilt was proven over the intercom -- his mind turned yet again to the past.
"Now watch what happens when we aim this lens at you," Makuta Okrelox said.
Taureko stood blankfaced in the lab, holding the scroll of languages. He'd learned a few other languages over the past two hundred years, in all cases obediently causing the overthrowing of another of the few islands that stood up for the Matoran's freedom.
While he stood in the lab, he couldn't even remember his life as "the Ta-Matoran." He felt no moral tugging when he helped betray such an island. It was his place as a lab Matoran. He was Taureko the Worker.
He felt guilty whenever he left the lab at first, but he justified it as an act he must carry out if he hoped to free anybody. A few times he wondered whether he was helping enslave more Matoran than he freed, but he really had no way of knowing. Whatever Okrelox forced him to do, he forced him to do, Taureko argued to himself.
Eventually the guilt stopped, and both sides of his mind forgot about the other.
Now the lens bent a small white light from a special metal-burning torch. It cast onto Taureko, revealing that he was wreathed in red-orange energy. It remained when he let go of the scroll.
"It's because you're a Threshold Matoran," Okrelox mused. "There's something about that island that affects the people who go there. You behave like its stones, I think. Since Hykehra touched the scroll at one point, she could never leave alive either." Okrelox had mentioned before that the stones seemed to have energy-holding effects. That was how Threshold and the scroll both worked. The scientist suspected it was capable of much more than just those two powers.
Okrelox tilted the lens away. "Yet when this special light doesn't touch you, the energy wreath becomes invisible."
Taureko stood there, still holding the scroll. He was amazed Okrelox had bought his story long ago that he had been forced to steal the scroll. Okrelox treated him like a robot now, expecting him to be perfectly obedient.
Well, he was, though, he reminded himself. Maybe it hadn't been an act?
The thought horrified him and he had to resist a strong urge to quiver in fear of it. He calmed his beating heart. This wasn't the place for anything out of the ordinary.
Okrelox glanced at him. "You may go for now. Let me have the scroll back."
He handed Okrelox the scroll.
As the yellow-orange Makuta drew the scroll away, his hand passed through the beam of light.
Red-orange energy appeared around his arm. Okrelox's jaw dropped in amazement.
"Wait," the Makuta said. "Stand in front of the light again."
Taureko did. There was no wreath of energy on him. Now it was on Okrelox.
"Hm... Maybe I interpreted it incorrectly...."
Okrelox set the scroll down. "Touch my hand." Taureko did.
Now the energy passed to Taureko.
"No," Okrelox said thoughtfully. "This wreath of energy passes to whoever touches the person who has it already..." Okrelox let go of Taureko and touched the scroll. The energy floated away from Taureko and landed on Okrelox. "And to whoever touched the scroll last. Interesting."
Okrelox tried it again a few times. Then, satisfied, he sent Taureko away.
"Stand there," Okrelox said. "Now, think, 'fly' and focus on the mask on your face."
Makuta Okrelox had placed Taureko inside a hollow round metal device, filled with various wires, for an hour. It was an experiment not sanctioned by Makuta Teridax, but what the Brotherhood leader didn't know couldn't hurt him. Unless Okrelox wanted it too.
When Taureko stepped out an hour later, his mind felt strange. Stretched. He was no different from the Taureko he had been, but he felt almost smarter, sharper.
Okrelox had given him a real Kanohi Kadin.
Sure enough, his feet lifted off the ground. He hovered for a moment, then flew around the room.
"Good!" Okrelox said, smiling with pride. "Now land. Let's try some other masks."
The Ko-Matoran stood on the dock of the island of Nhoakrus. Makuta Teridax had asked Okrelox to send Taureko on a personal mission. In his cloth backpack, he carried the scroll. The island ahead of him was of a medium-sized island filled with jungle. The tree trunks were thicker than a Makuta in places and they reached higher than the highest building on Metru Nui.
Standing ahead of him on the dock, he saw the Onu-Matoran he had known all those years ago. He waved, grinning. Right now, the Lab Matoran side was asleep.
"Mohrook!" he shouted, grinning.
The Onu-Matoran ran up, and slapped his hand. "So you've finally escaped?"
Taureko shook his head. "Not quite. I figured out a way to escape long ago, but I'm still going back and forth, freeing slaves."
Mohrook nodded. Of course, that was a lie. He was still just as much a slave as ever. That was part of his Lab Matoran side peeking out, overseeing his normal side.
They walked along the dock towards the Matoran settlements perched among the trees. Blimps flew this way and that, taking the famous inventions of the Nhoakrus Matoran out to islands all over the Matoran Universe.
All the Matoran here had once been Brotherhood slaves, engineers mostly. A Makuta had owned this island much like Xakmuluk had owned the one next to Kwarotos. After the Onu-Matoran Mohrook had escaped on the Southern island with the Keep, a Brotherhood force the Makuta had already had on the island captured him.
He'd been sold to the Nhoakrus Makuta, whose name nobody had bothered to keep for history's sake. Then the Makuta had disappeared, and the Toa Hagah had helped free the island. Now Mohrook worked as an engineer for the island's free Matoran.
There was much more to the island, Taureko knew. He saw a hint of flames twisting and turning high above in the trees. The jungle could not be burnt down, though the Makuta had tried many times. In fact the trees were creating the flames he saw now. Nobody knew why.
As they got closer, he heard the songs. They were hard to hear among the sounds of industry, but an almost tribal chant could be heard among the trees. Nobody knew who sang the songs, but all who heard them were overwhelmed with a chilling sense of mystery. Some said it was the island's original inhabitants, hiding from the newcomers.
Others said the trees themselves were sentient. After all, branches were now wrapped around the Makuta high in the canopy. He was alive, but apparently unable to move. A look of intense horror was said to be frozen on his face. Taureko asked Mohrook if there was any way he could see the Makuta. He tried not to give any hint that it was part of his mission.
"Sure," Mohrook said. "I can take you on the grand tour if you'd like!"
Taureko smiled. "Sure."
They entered the trees and came to an elevator. It was made mostly of wood -- not from anything like a timber industry. The Matoran had perfected the art of growing any parts they needed right off the trees' branches in the right shape, almost like leaves to be plucked. Gears, pulleys, and a rope did the lifting work.
The elevator stopped high near the canopy. This was the village proper, where most of the Matoran lived. All six of the main Matoran elements were represented. Mohrook led him towards a small blimp. It was made of white cloth, with a wooden basket hanging underneath, shaped like a rowboat. A gear-driven fan on the back served as propulsion.
"This is my own blimp," the Onu-Matoran said. "It's just a local vessel, not capable of the long voyages to Metru Nui my people make or the like. I do work on a larger vessel from time to time, captained by a Matoran named Kaokhaa. We're planning on leaving on a trading mission this year with lots of new inventions, actually."
Taureko climbed aboard the blimp. Mohrook untied its moorings and started up the engine.
They flew around the suspended village, looking at the huts hanging from ropes from high branches, and the rope bridges that crisscrossed the area. Then Mohrook flew deeper into the island, near the center.
Slowly they circled over a giant stump. This had been one of the largest trees -- wider than seven Makuta standing wingtip to wingtip, looked like.
Laying next to the stump lay a log.
No, not a log. A tree. That tree. The one that had once been connected to the stump. But it wasn't dead. It lived on, despite being disconnected totally from its roots.
"That happened while the Toa Hagah were freeing our island," Mohrook said. "A friend of mine thinks it was downed by the ax of a titan of titans, maybe the source of the songs you heard earlier."
"But why?" Taureko said. "Why chop down a tree instead of attack the Brotherhood forces?"
Mohrook shrugged. "Show of power, maybe? And remember we don't know what trapped the Makuta. Let's go look at him next."
The blimp rose up through the branches, and flew to the north. This was far from the southern docks, and the somewhat southern village, out where no Makuta had any business going, Taureko thought.
Then they came to it.
Just as the stories said, there was a rust-red Makuta, tangled in branches as thick as himself by the uppermost canopy. The look of horror was really more one of death-by-heart-attack, Taureko thought. Horror didn't begin to describe how twisted the Makuta's tribal-looking mask was, how contorted the lines around the wide eyes. Whatever that Makuta saw before his mind froze in place forever, it was unimaginable.
Cautiously, Taureko reached with his mind into his backpack, and activated a silent scanning device Okrelox had given him. It scanned the Makuta, learning how the Makuta's antidermis was unable to control its armor anymore. Okrelox hadn't gotten permission for this part of the mission from Teridax.
"Pretty weird, huh?" Mohrook said. "Well, let's move on."
They flew all over the jungle, seeing various things, most of them just as confusing as the others. But Taureko got the impression they'd barely scratched the surface of how mysterious the island was.
Finally, as they were nearing the village again, Taureko felt the scroll flare to life in his backpack.
Instantly a new language entered his mind. An ancient one, with deep meaning to many of its words, he sensed. He looked around for the being that must speak it.
For a second he thought he saw eyes behind a clump of leaves. But he wasn't sure and they disappeared instantly.
That was the mission Teridax sent him on.
He spent the day talking about old times with Mohrook, and then he sailed away.
In the next dome, Destral lay in the shadows by the Dome's Great Barrier wall. He came back ashore.
Finally, Taureko believed he had written down the last symbols in the book of translation from the language he had learned on Nhoakrus.
He had been allowed to leave with the understanding that it was pointless to flee. The Makuta were watching the island, including all blimps leaving. Plus, as long as he still held the scroll, Destral could initiate a teleport, killing him as Hykehra had been killed. And Okrelox had fused the backpack to his armor to make it that much harder to discard the scroll.
Now his armor was back to normal, but Teridax made him spend the next month compiling the whole language. He had forgotten some of it, but he did his best.
Meanwhile, he led more Matoran to freedom when Destral teleported. A group was told to swim to Nhoakrus. He had told Mohrook ahead of time to pick up that group. Presumably, he did.
Just last week he'd freed another group. Teridax was furious at how may slaves they were losing, and began leaving Makuta behind to capture them.
Taureko simply changed the plan. Instead of jumping out right away, they got their hands on the courses plotted for Destral's teleporting, and timed their jumps to land in water halfway there, or two-thirds of the way there. Word had reached every slave on the island that this "Ta-Matoran" was a surefire bet for all who wanted to escape.
More and more did.
The estimated time a Destral slave remained in slavery once coming to the island was now just one year. Teridax tried posting Makuta at various fractional intervals along the route, but it was just so unlikely that they'd be in exactly the right dome, eventually he'd given up on it and just imposed a stricter punishment for anyone who tried to escape. The estimated time held at about a year.
Taureko knocked on Teridax's door.
"Enter," the Makuta's deep voice said. Taureko turned the latch. Inside, Makuta sat at a desk. Various artifacts lined the four walls. The room was square, and very large. The only windows were small ones near the ceiling high above. It had once been Makuta Miserix's office, Taureko had heard.
Taureko recognized the Makuta's black mask as the one he'd seen in the vaults so long ago. For some reason, that face scared him more than most others. Even Okrelox didn't scare him all that much.
"Here it is, sir," he said, bowing down.
Teridax smiled, standing and reaching out his hand. "Thank you, slave. This will come in very handy in stopping the outflux of slaves from this island." He took the book.
Taureko's fingers took a second to let go.
The master of shadows paused. "Your name is Taureko, yes?"
He nodded, still bowed.
"Well, that's interesting," Makuta said. He sat back down. "Because it says here that you've been a slave on Destral for what, approaching three hundred years now?"
"Yes, sir," Taureko said, not thinking, still in Lab Matoran mode.
"Funny thing about that," Teridax mused. "Have you heard that new statistic? I think Makuta Mutran released it the other day. He's always been more into these beaurocratic things than I. One year. The average time a slave spends on this island before being freed."
Taureko didn't respond for a moment. His slave freeing self was shouting at him. Something was wrong. What? But he didn't want to begin the thinking yet. It wasn't time. The gears in his mind just turned, thinking as a Worker. "And this language will help you lower that, sir?"
Teridax paused. Taureko felt rather than thought that his tone of voice had been just right. The Makuta narrowed his eyes. "I have an artifact in this room that may indeed cut it off altogether, actually."
Taureko the Worker smiled. "I'm glad I could help, then, sir. Makuta Okrelox has made it clear to me that the life of a Destral slave is far better than any other." Taureko the Freer nearly broke through his concentration then. He almost said the word, "no" -- but Taureko the Worker stopped him.
Teridax looked the book over. "You know, you tried to escape a few times once, didn't you?"
Taureko the Freer forced him to smile. No! Not time to smile! He dropped the smile. He was going to have to think his way out of this one. He let both sides of himself war it out for a moment. Then he said simply, "That was a long time ago."
He felt Teridax in his mind then. Quickly Taureko the Freer dashed for the mental barrier he'd erected so long ago.
The Makuta slowly smiled. "You've got quite a mind there, Taureko. It seems far different from the blank slates I've sensed before. The kind it might take to free so many slaves."
"Well," Taureko said, "You know my master did give me the ability to use this mask, right? It's expanded my mind, enabled me to see things even clearly than I did before. Things like the futility of escape."
"It doesn't sound to futile with the statistics now."
"I mean, what happens to those Matoran after they escape? A lot of them end up dead. There are the sharks to think about. And Okrelox gives me chances to really experience things, you know? Besides, every time I tried to escape, my best friends died. It's not worth it."
Teridax slowly nodded. "A good answer. But do you have friends now? They basically all abandon you on their own now, right? What about that 'Mohrook'? He doesn't live here." Makuta flipped a page on his desk. "How about Phalaadri?"
Taureko's eyes flashed. He hadn't thought about Phalaadri in so long... But how much else did Teridax have on his desk? This whole thing was a trap, wasn't it?
"Well, regardless," Teridax said, "You might be interested to know that the trade blimp Mohrook was on went down over a crag of an island near Metru Nui recently. It's ruled by monsters known as the Koulshra. Nobody escapes their island -- you live out your whole life there. They feed on your life energy whenever they can. That's where that fool Onu-Matoran will suffer until his early death."
Taureko looked at the floor. He tried to come up with a clever response.
"Little do they know I tampered personally with their flight path," Makuta said, chuckling. "I wanted to see how you'd react if your old friend went to such a horrible doom."
Taureko gulped. This was his fault? For freeing Matoran?
No, no, it was all Teridax. And he didn't free Matoran. He was a Worker. That was all. At least while he stood in this room.
"If..." he said, "you felt that was best for him, then you're the ruler, sir. I went to see him only as part of the mission you assigned, sir." He kept his eyes on the floor, afraid to look anywhere else. He just prayed Teridax wasn't about to announce that Phalaadri had been killed or anything.
Makuta entered his mind again, but he sensed only the Worker this time. Mind expanded due to the mask experiment, but that was it.
"Well," Teridax said. "I guess I have nothing else to ask you. You are free to leave."
Taureko fought all night to keep from crying or showing any signs of how distraught he was over Teridax's words. He feared the Makuta were spying on him now.
The worst thing was, Taureko the Freer thought, he hadn't gotten any information at all about what the Brotherhood leader would do to stop slaves from escaping. Which artifact was it that he needed to translate the strange language for? Taureko hadn't dared to even glance at the objects.
No, he realized then. That wasn't the worst of it.
It was that it was all his fault. He had allowed the old work-obsessed slave mind, the broken version of himself, to rule him during the mission. Why hadn't he tried to escape? He could have ripped the cloth. He could have touched the scroll to a random Rahi and left it. Maybe Mohrook's blimp wouldn't have gone down.
The split personality he thought had allowed him to survive had in fact been his downfall. What had happened to the real Ta-Matoran's advice? Keep the blank look on your face. The Matoran had strongly implied it was just an act. What was more, that Matoran had actually escaped to some unknown hideout long ago, so he didn't show up on the administrative books.
Why hadn't Taureko done that as well?
Because the Worker side of him was still strong. He hadn't wanted to escape. Sure, he told himself he did, but the truth was he was still hiding from his grief about Ohito, Fehrono, and Hykehra's deaths.
He cried then, unable to help it.
The next day, he resolved to bury Taureko the Worker forever.
Okrelox tried several more experiments on him. He kept the usual blank face. He kept his unquestioning obedience.
To a point. If he was ever pushed to do something horrible again, he vowed to take advantage of his mask usage ability and escape. Then he would truly take up the mantle of the Ta-Matoran.
He began to look forward to it. There was a vent right above Okrelox's lab's door. One day, he loosened its grate so that if he needed to, he could fly right into it before Okrelox could blink.
But Okrelox didn't push him again. He seemed to think Taureko's worth was diminished now that he knew there was no special attachment to the scroll or to Threshold. For many more years he was just another Lab Matoran among several that Okrelox now worked with. His death would come soon in a random experiment.
Then Okrelox made a big mistake. He decided to rebuild Taureko's armor with a new power he was developing.
The new armor gave Taureko the ability to absorb any powers used against him. With Taureko's expanded mind, he would actually be able to tap into the powers for a time.
But Okrelox forgot about the mask experiment, lost in a shuffle of papers. He had never been that adept at putting two and two together, Taureko thought, remembering the incident with the lens and the scroll. The yellow-orange Makuta never realized he'd given the Matoran more power than the legendary beast known as Keetongu, who had recently killed Sidorak on Metru Nui just after Mata Nui was cast into slumber during the Great Cataclysm.
Taureko took it as an opportunity. He was tired of waiting around to die. The escape statistics had just been released again.
Taureko didn't need to hear them. He'd failed to help even a single slave escape. Guards were posted at his cell constantly, and Destral's teleporting schedule and routes were changed. Two Makuta at a time guarded Threshold now, and slaves were no longer allowed in to help with repairs. The Makuta did all the repairs themselves.
How that was connected to the language he'd learned, he couldn't imagine. He strongly suspected Teridax had been bluffing. The language served some other purpose. He would bet half the island on it.
The Makuta never did prove it was him. The security changes for Threshold came at the same time they posted guards at his cell. It could have been any number of slaves, old timers that Taureko had never convinced to give up their blank stares, a minority that barely affected the average statistic.
But the Makuta knew none of those broken slaves had the willpower. It was either Taureko or an escaped slave from the past that had come back.
Taureko no longer wanted to risk them finding out for sure. He broke out of his cell one night and killed the two Rahkshi assigned to guard him. When they shot their powers at him, he simply absorbed their powers and shot them at a different Rahkshi.
For months he roamed the caves, looking for the outpost. He never found it, but he did find the Ta-Matoran's old hideout in the ventilation intake room. He took up residence there and continued his search.
Finally, Makuta Okrelox and Vishrahk captured him in a random cave one night. They blended in with the shadows. He was knocked unconscious before he knew what hit him.
The last thing he remembered, he was in a cuff chair in Okrelox's lab. Okrelox, Vishrahk, and Chirox were standing around, calibrating a memory blocker. Then Okrelox walked up to him with it.
All his memories ever since he ran into Hykehra on Destral. Wiped clean. Taureko the Worker came back in a smarter form, and Taureko the Freer forgot he existed. Okrelox sold him to a Makuta Suulkra on a pine forest island north of Metru Nui, after touching the scroll so that Taureko was released from its invisible energy wreath. Suulkra owned a major Brotherhood base, and after Sidorak's death, she sought to shelter her island's spiders from the news as an extra measure of control. But even that memory Okrelox took.
Taureko served as the translator between Suulkra and her Visorak armies. She was a white Makuta who wore a Kanohi Kuwatri, a mask of Ferocity. She considered it great sport to go out alone to other islands, enslaving Matoran and fighting off any Toa personally.
One day, nearly five hundred years after the Great Cataclysm, she left and didn't come back. Only much later would Taureko learn she had survived whatever problem she ran into, going home nearly a hundred years later.
The Visorak awaited her return for a year. Then they formed factions that warred for power. Taureko found himself slave to a faction ruled by a vicious Kahgarak, the titanic version of Visorak capable of sending a target into the Shadow Dimension of Zivon.
But other Kahgarak soon came out as his main competitor, and one by one his master's followers were sent away. Almost as soon as they entered Zivon's realm, that monstrous creature ate them.
The Kahgarak moved towards the islands's coast slowly, fighting desperately. But eventually the group was reduced to only the Kahgarak, a Suukorak, a Venom Flyer, and Taureko. The leader shuffled them onto a boat it had Taureko steal, and they fled the island, heading south.
When they came upon Metru Nui, the Kahgarak devised a plan to take it over. It discovered that only a single Turaga, Keetongu, and six creatures whose names matched the once-legendary Toa Hagah, lived in the city's ruins. One by one it sent them into Zivon's realm.
Taureko had to warn it at one point that an ice bat was flying around shouting "There's a Kahgarak!" over and over, so the Kahgarak targeted Kualus next. He felt guilty about doing it, but what was the point in trying to help these Rahkshi-faces? They couldn't help him, he reasoned. He wouldn't help them.
Near the end of the plan, the black Rahaga, Bomonga, messed everything up.
He discovered that the Kahgarak was using two Rhotuka spinners whenever it needed to go somewhere without being detected. One to enter Zivon's realm, and another to leave. Since its power didn't work from inside the realm, it was the only safe way to do it, and part of how the Kahgarak had held out against the rival factions for so long.
When the Kahgarak sent Bomonga in, it had already made two spinners, in case it needed an escape. But Bomonga failed to dodge the first spinner, and went into Zivon's realm.
The Kahgarak had left the other spinner floating on the Coliseum's roof to dissipate on its own.
Bomonga figured it out and escaped.
Taureko watched Bomonga walk away. The Rahkshi-faced creature had just told him that Sidorak was dead. He had laughed. The Kahgarak had made that lie up as part of the ruse. Yet Bomonga seemed confident that it was true. He seemed to know of the death from a different source.
What was more, Bomonga seemed confident he could defeat the Kahgarak. Something in the back of Taureko's mind nagged at him. Something from the time he had no memory of. He felt... It was foolish, but... He sighed.
He felt there was a chance, however slim, that Bomonga might defeat the two Visorak, freeing him.
So he turned and went to the room where the Kahgarak was giving orders to the Suukorak.
"Excuse me, sir," Taureko said in the Visorak language. "Um... I'm afraid Bomonga has escaped the Zivon's realm. He must have gotten through the second Rhotuka."
The Kahgarak spat in disgust. "Already he pretended to be captured when he was not. No matter. I will use only one Rhotuka at a time now."
"Well," Taureko continued, "He's challenging both of you to a duel in the Akilini field on the building's roof. He seemed confident, sir." Taureko didn't mention his hope that the Zivon had come out with Bomonga.
The Kahgarak narrowed its already narrow eyes. "Fine. We'll all face him down. You'll come along as collateral, slave."
A maze. That was what Bomonga and the others turned the Akilini field into. Taureko immediately smelled the Zivon.
The Kahgarak sensed it as well. But the Zivon was no threat to him in this dimension. So on it beckoned the Suukorak and Taureko.
It had ordered Taureko and the Suukorak to split up from itself and circle the edge of the maze, while it headed towards the center, where it sensed the Zivon.
They were split up for just a few moments when a Rhotuka flew straight up into the air.
A signal from Bomonga.
The stone pillars retreated into the ground, turning the maze into a flat open field again. Taureko registered the Zivon rushing at the Kahgarak, and Bomonga hovering towards a rope tied to the Zivon.
Bomonga grabbed the rope and swung it towards the Kahgarak just as it fired a single Rhotuka at the Zivon.
Then Bomonga swung around and touched the rope to the Suukorak.
Light enveloped the Zivon, traveled down the rope, and enveloped the Kahgarak.
As the light traveled in a split second to the Suukorak, Taureko saw Keetongu standing on the edge of the maze. He was holding something high in the air.
Taureko froze in shock. It was true?
But before he had time to think, the Suukorak reached out a leg and touched Taureko. The light enveloped him too.
Then all light stopped working. He was in Zivon's realm. Bomonga must have let go of the rope at the last second to avoid being pulled in too. If not for the stubbornness of the white Visorak, he would be free now, still standing on the Coliseum's roof.
His mind teased him with flashes of old memories as he stood there, still in shock. He heard the Zivon chomp down on something big. The Suukorak was shouting at the Kahgarak, chastising it for not firing two Rhotuka. The Kahgarak's last words were that there had been no time. The defense came in the form of a scream.
That knocked Taureko to his senses.
The Suukorak shrunk away at the sound of Zivon's approach.
"Sorry," it said. Taureko heard the sound of a Rhotuka.
Energy slammed into him. Paralyzation, the commmon alternate power of all Visorak Rhotuka.
But his muscles didn't go numb. He felt the power of paralyzation in his armor, but instead of attacking him, it was now at his disposal.
Just like Keetongu.
In a flash all the memories flooded back. Everything that had happened after the Ta-Matoran's death. Hykehra. Mohrook. Taureko the Freer! That's who he truly was! Sidorak had been killed by Keetongu. Taureko had the ability to fly and absorb powers used against him. The scroll. Nhoakrus.
Taureko gritted his teeth. He refused to die here.
Off the ground he jumped. He zoomed over the fleeing Suukorak. The Zivon came on. Soon Taureko heard another crunch.
Taureko flew until he was too tired. Then he heard the Zivon coming.
The monster shot a Rhotuka at him. He absorbed it. The power of deafening. Another Rhotuka, this one of Numbness. Another. Deafening. The Zivon was smart enough not to bother with blindness, Taureko thought. But as more and more Rhotuka hit him, he almost had to wonder if that was the extent of its intelligence.
Then he simply unleashed all of that power in one single beam of energy. He couldn't see it, but he could tell he'd hit his mark by the roar of rage that started, grew, and then suddenly went silent. The numbness Rhotuka had a subpower of Mute, after all.
Now the Zivon simply lay there, paralyzed, numb, mute, and deaf.
Taureko fled far from it.
It wasn't long before it sunk in that he was stuck, though. Taureko was alive. He had figured out that a tiny edible species of plant, similar to lichen, grew in patches on the stone floor of the Shadow Dimension. He knew the truth of who he was. He vowed again to forever abandon Taureko the Worker.
But he faced an eternity of shadow, unless he should chance on some opening another Kahgarak made. The chances were slim.
It infuriated him. In his mind he raged at the Kahgarak, at the Suukorak. He even raged at Bomonga for not just letting the Suukorak go, giving him a better chance. Surely they could have dealt with one Visorak themselves? The Rahkshi-faced fools. They got lucky, that was all.
So he went around fuming for a day. Two days. Three.
But he soon got tired of it. The truth was, Bomonga was one of the former Toa Hagah. His friend Mohrook had owed his freedom originally to that Toa team. It was wrong to be bitter towards them, Taureko thought.
And what was the point obsessing over the two Visorak's role? He'd known they were evil. If he had listened to the nagging thoughts earlier, maybe he would have run from the Suukorak rather than go into shock. In a way, it was his fault as much as theirs. And besides, they were both dead now.
The real enemy was the Makuta, he concluded. Specifically, Makuta Okrelox. For whatever reason, Okrelox had been the one obsessed with Kwarotos and its mysteries. Taurek wondered for a moment why Okrelox lived on Destral, rather than some other island. Perhaps Kwarotos had once been his island?
But then why did all maps lack mention of it, including Brotherhood maps?
Oh well, he thought. Plenty of time to mull over that mystery. What he really wanted to think about was Phalaadri. How was she? Teridax had not said anything about any wrong done to her or the other free Kwarotos Matoran. Had they all evacuated to this mysterious final outpost at the island's peak? It would have to be much larger than the rest, if so.
For several weaks he stayed in one place, eating its lichen, thinking. He discovered that the lichen grew back within a day of being eaten -- an unlimited supply. It seemed unnatural, he thought. Then one day, he found a cluster of the lichen that grew in strange formations.
What was more, the words were in the language he had learned on Nhoakrus. They spelled the sentence, "Hope for those doomed to shadow."
So, whoever spoke that language had made the lichen? Specifically in case anybody other than Visorak ever got trapped here? It actually brought a smile to his face. Something he hadn't done since the last time he'd freed a group of slaves, long ago.
It also made him curious. Had they left anything else of use in the realm? Perhaps... a way out?
He spent the next few months feeling around in circles. He found lichen, more lichen, the mechanical remains of the two dead Visorak, and more lichen.
Then he found an edge. An area where, when he crossed into it, his feet left all semblance of a ground, and he felt pulled forward, until his feet landed again.
Had he crossed from one area of Zivon's realm into another?
But he soon discovered the answer was no. The whole area was actually a wide circle, almost as wide as Metru Nui's dome, and if you went off the edge on one side, you appeared on the edge on the other side. He never saw the Zivon again in the circle area, which made him wonder if the realm did have more than one circle but he simply didn't know the way to get to another one. But this circle had the same two Visorak bodies.
He was indeed stuck.
It made some sense, he thought, that there would be no clear way out given by these unknown language-speakers. What if someone evil used it to escape? So there he remained.
Months dragged into years. Years into centuries. He lost all track of time and he forgot how to see. Much time was spent mulling over his own mistakes and triumphs. He cried himself to sleep many times when he thought back to how he had betrayed Mohrook, the beings with the Keep, and so many more over the years as Taureko the Worker.
The shadow and the hope together, however, purged his mind of the Worker forever. There was no life of a slave here -- only punishment for one who had been, and hope for one who would never again be. So he beleived with every fiber of his being.
Taureko flew out of Destral's central tower. He was right about the hope part, he thought, as he headed rapidly towards the storage building. Five hundred years after being trapped in Zivon's realm, the inhabitants of the island of Mata Nui freed him. Takanuva, then just a Matoran named Takua, was primarily responsible for his freedom. He vowed loyalty to them. When they went to Metru Nui, he was given the blade of Sidorak. It meant a lot to him -- a symbol of how he had fallen so far yet come back.
Later, Takanuva met Mohrook and freed everybody else trapped on the Koulshra island, befriending the beasts in the process. Taureko had told Takanuva and Mohrook the reason the blimp crashed. Taureko had been ashamed, but Mohrook had forgiven him.
He flew through the caves, thinking about how this mission had failed. Hujo had asked Takanuva to help convince Taureko that he needed the scroll. He needed it to learn a new language, one of a mysterious group of intelligent beasts that he believed had the power to turn the tide in a growing threat that Hujo believed would soon break out into war.
That threat was one that had been accelerating ever since the events on Mata Nui. For now it was at least four-sided -- Metru Nui and the Unknown and all their allies formed one side. The Brotherhood and the Dark Hunters formed two independant sides that also opposed the mysterious main evil side of the Paracosmos.
Hujo had told Taureko of the Paracosmos and the original Cosmos, and the legend of the Tapestry of Time that split during an "Event." Hujo believed this enemy side knew some of the deepest secrets of the Paracosmos, including its evil purpose for existence in the first place. These were secrets he must keep from the Makuta, Hujo warned him. Takanuva had encouraged him to help -- of anyone, he stood the best chance of stealing the scroll.
Taureko had agreed. He could steal that Identity Lock picker, and break into the vault. In a matter of minutes, he'd be out. Then he'd search again for the outpost and use it to escape if possible.
But the lock picker was gone. When he got the vault, the scroll was already gone. Everything had gone downhill from there.
Taureko now guessed that somehow, the physics of the scroll's wreath of energy had changed so that Taureko's second personality was subconsciously using it to target Makuta and bring them into contact with the scroll. Okrelox had always cautiously avoided touching the scroll when Rahi or other beings were near. Taureko remembered now that at one point he had theorized the scroll's fire might react with antidermis in a deadly way.
Now, he thought as he emerged from the cave outside the fortress and saw the sky still crackling with purple electricity, even his best plan to find the scroll had been foiled. He'd told those Visorak to meet him days from now. But he could sense that the end was already here. The Makuta might not survive today, and he and his friends might not either.
Taureko took a deep breath.
He had a way to survive. He could go to the outpost, teleport to Kwarotos, or really anywhere but here, and let events play out however they would. Maybe Phalaadri would have a way to get the scroll, or even make another like it, since it was made of the stone of Kwarotos.
But Takanuva. Hujo. Bhukasa. The others. They needed him. Murderer or not, he felt that he was the key to all these events. Which path should he take?
Suddenly the sky turned blue.
Taureko looked up. He saw two sun-holes, directly above them. Very close. They were spinning away from him rapidly. He realized he was floating midair.
Because Destral was falling.
Destral spun around so that up was now down. Taureko saw Metru Nui, a tiny shape far below. A boat was hurtling through the air just below Destral.
In mere minutes, Destral would slam into Metru Nui, killing everybody on both islands.
Jun 26 2008, 11:10 PM
BZPower Staff Writer
Group: Prem Ref Masters/Forum Leaders
Joined: 14-March 03
Member No.: 5195
In that moment, all Taureko's courage faded away. Drained out like life energy from a fruit.
Because he knew it was true. He was Taureko the Bitter. Hadn't he pushed aside the thoughts of his friends while he rode that Takea to Destral? Hadn't he seized instead upon his bitterness towards the Makuta? Hadn't that been what kept his fingers tightly holding on? Hadn't that been what he harbored in his heart as he headed towards the vaults?
Hadn't it been in his heart too, when he entered Okrelox's lab during the emergency meeting?
Tears came to his eyes as he realized he hadn't forgotten that moment after all. He had hidden it away inside his mind, horrified of it. Taureko the Friend had emerged, confused and dazed. Now he remembered bits and pieces of it, through a red-orange haze.
He had entered Okrelox's cavern. He had circled and dug. When that failed, he had used his powers to throw things down off the shelves. Then he'd found the scroll. He read Okrelox's code, realizing it was a Makuta-killing setup if the scroll was added to the mix. In his bitterness, he must have moved the scroll inside without touching it, and closed the hatch. He had known that Okrelox touched the scroll last, therefore would be the first to die.
Then whoever touched Okrelox would die next. It simply happend to be Xakmuluk. Then Vishrahk. Then Bitil. Mutran had been an accident purely. The mindfire targeted the Threshold guards simply because they were in the way.
That was what his bitterness was, he realized. Mindfire.
The revelation brought the tears back to his eyes and his knees felt weak. The bitterness was a fire in his mind. Burning him up inside. Preventing him from thinking clearly. Making him do horrible things, just like that Shadow Booster long ago. Now it would become his doom.
But what about the Cosmos Lurch? Had it simply been coincidental timing? Had it mutated the mindfire into this monster? Doubt crept back into him. He didn't want to believe he'd killed the Makuta, because that led to right now -- risking the lives of everybody on Metru Nui. What if this was another illusion he had to stop believing in? What if he was still being framed? He still saw the murder through a haze. Why couldn't he remember clearly?
"You know what caused the Lurch," the mindfire said. "I did. You did. We did."
Taureko's jaw dropped. How could he have done that?
"Look at Threshold! Do you recognize that stone indentation?"
He frowned. A stone rectangle? So what? This was leading nowhere. He felt he should attack the energy now. Part of him or not, he had to stop it. He couldn't let it stall.
The fire moved the scroll into its hand. The scroll unrolled. To form a rectangle.
"Makuta Okrelox lied to us. I figured it out. You did not. This was not originally a scroll. It was a stone tablet. The same one Hykehra found. The same one she carried in her energy pack, which Okrelox obtained when he enslaved you. A map of Kwarotos."
The scroll came apart by the hinges. The pieces moved around, rearranging. Then the hinges came back together. Taureko saw. What he had barely even noticed, dismissing as a mere background pattern, was a mixed-up map of Kwarotos. Now it was put back in the right shape, and he saw that it showed one side of the tall island, with circles showing the area of each of the twenty outposts that led to the peak. What was more, there was writing on it. He couldn't make out the letters.
"Makuta Okrelox was ordered by Teridax to disguise it. He chopped it up. Turned it into a stone scroll."
The being moved the scroll towards Threshold. "It is also a key to the full power of Kwarotos. But Okrelox never figured it out." Fire lit the hinges, and pressed in around the scroll. Its pieces merged together again and it seemed to shrink a little.
A tablet once more, the mindfire placed the scroll inside Threshold's rectangular indentation.
Suddenly Threshold's fire changed color. Now it became red wind. The wind rushed faster and louder than before, and the room shook so violently the glass table shattered. Taureko heard Vakama and Takanuva gasp for breath. The other Matoran were affected too. They stumbled back, afraid. The Makuta weren't much affected, but they looked disturbed.
"You see?" the mindfire shouted. "This is the power of Kwarotos! This is the source of the Cosmos Lurch! With this power, you changed me. I changed me. I set myself free. And now I don't need you, Taureko the Matoran!"
Taureko couldn't feel anything strange. Why? Was he absorbing this new Lurch's power? Maybe he had a chance! He had the 42 powers.
But the horror of what this meant stopped him from attacking. All this time, he thought Kwarotos was a place of hope. And yet Hykehra must have known that she was playing with fire, dealing in a power that sent fear into the hearts of everybody. How could she? Had the Ta-Matoran known as well? Had he been evil too?
No, this couldn't be. Something was off. This being.... it could be lying. There was still the red haze. Still doubt, still gaps in his memory. He had to know. He needed more evidence.
So he used one of the 42 powers now. Not an attack -- not what he'd planned.
The power of mind reading.
The being didn't see it coming. Taureko heard its thoughts as it frantically scrambled to imagine a mental barrier. He felt the sinister hatred, he felt the bitterness.
But the bitterness was not his own!
The mindfire's eyes burst into white-hot flames, and it rushed at him. Matoran behind him screamed. But his armor absorbed most of the heat.
Taureko felt his courage come back. He gritted his teeth. He had to know it all. Unleashing bolts of sonics and vacuum, he fought the mindfire back.
His mind pushed deeper into its mind. It felt bitterness towards other beings, on an island far from here. For years it had never even heard of Matoran. It was NOT a Matoran, not FROM any Matoran!
It screeched and lashed out with a red whip of energy. The whip wrapped around him. Pain writhed through his muscles. But Taureko called on the power to shapeshift and the powers of fire resistance and plasma. He turned into a monstrous mass of fire too. His tendrils of fire wrestled with the mindfire's tendrils, each trying to strangle the other. For now he was its match!
He pushed deeper with the mind control power.
Secrets. It lived on secrets, depended on them. It was obsessed with being secret.
That was why it needed to frame Taureko! It needed to be invisible to everybody, even the Unknown. Nobody could even know it existed, and so it needed a cover for its actions.
More! It was rooting for the growing threat of the Paracosmos, the evil forces that served the villainess known as Nhayaka. How it was connected was its most closely guarded secret. Taureko couldn't break through the barrier around it. But this was an act of war, an attempt to remove the Makuta as a competing evil force in the Paracosmos.
Yes, it knew this universe was a Paracosmos, he discovered, a copy of the original Bionicle Cosmos. It wanted to rule the Paracosmos itself. It aspired to feign loyalty to Nhayaka, and then it planned to take over for itself.
Can't you see the futility? Taureko thought. Have you learned nothing from the Makutas' constant scheming?
Its mind writhed in fury at his boldness. It tried to shake loose. You don't know what danger you're in! I could make a new Cosmos Lurch anchor now and destroy all beings who absorb powers! You and Keetongu would instantly die. I could overload the powers of all who can fly. You would zoom out into space. I can change anything I need to in order to kill you!
Then why don't you? Taureko said. You are not part of me. You never were. You said it yourself -- you don't need me!
Suddenly the being lashed its red whip towards the others behind Taureko.
But the whip struck the ground in a line in front of them. A wall of stone grew from it, blocking their view of the battle.
I don't need you to survive, the being said. A fiery tendril reached down into the pipes and pulled the memory blocking device up. I just need you to confess before you die. If I have to erase your memories of these past few minutes -- if I have to erase every happy thought you ever had -- so be it!
Taureko shot a bolt of fragmentation at the tendril. The energy shimmered, and the blocker dropped to the floor. He made a cyclone.
The twister picked the device up and hurled it towards the top of the stone wall.
The mindfire let go of him, leaping behind him at the blocker. It caught it and held it in its two hands.
Taureko turned to face it, readying a fire whip of his own.
Then he began forgetting things.
No! He had to hold on, to fight it. He had undone the memory blocker's power before. What had he just learned? That the being wasn't part of him. Then he forgot it. What had he learned? What had he learned? He didn't know.
There was a being in front of him. The mindfire. Taureko the Bitter.
But that felt wrong. Whatever it was, it had to be stopped.
He lashed out again with his plasma tendrils. The machine aimed away.
Then the memory came back.
"I'm innocent!" he shouted over the wall.
But fire burst forth from the being's mouth with a roar that drowned out his words. The fire slammed into him. He flew back. Knocked against Threshold. There was a white flash.
Threshold. He turned to it. Its energy was mixed in color. Parts of its roaring wind shone red. Parts were dark, like blue shadow.
He touched it. The red drained away.
The light dimmed, turning white. But it was so weak it looked gray.
He remembered how the light that had killed Hykehra had looked. Bright white. It had killed her because it was chaotic, uncontrolled, because the scroll was split up. All this he felt in his mind.
Ah, Taureko thought. This isn't the source of Cosmos Lurches after all, is it? But it IS the power of Kwarotos!
The mindfire simply aimed the blocker again.
But Taureko knew now how to absorb its power. He held up a hand. The device's energy flowed into him. Should I erase your memories now?
The fiery Kadin hissed at him, dropping the device. You are a fool, Taureko. All you've done is doom yourself. If I can't get you to confess, so be it. I will kill you. I will leave. The Makuta will still conclude I was part of you. All will still be ignorant of my existence because the only one who can tell them will be dead.
The being shimmered, changing shape again. It took on the form of an undefined haze again, but still wreathed in roaring fire. Tendrils of red energy where the mask had been began swimming in a circle. Taureko shrunk back to his normal form -- the plasma form would do him no good now.
Desperately, he unleashed Rahkshi power after Rahkshi power at the mindfire being. But being looser in form now, it simply shifted its energy aside, opening a hole in itself that his power bolts flew right through. They hit the stone wall behind.
Taureko's muscles convulsed. The ground lurched under him. He felt a thousand eyes on him. Worst of all, he felt strongly that he was in mortal danger. Because he was.
Then he noticed the light in the room had grown even dimmer. For a moment he hesitated -- if it meant what he thought it meant, the being must not know he'd realized it.
Then he glanced down at the memory blocker. Its silver metal surface reflected an image of Threshold behind him. Instead of dim white light, it was now wreathed in shadow energy.
Every time he'd used a Rahkshi power since touching it, he realized, he had turned it darker and darker.
That was what the rock did, he realized with a shudder. It simply harnessed whatever type of energy was used in its presence, storing some of the energy and amplifying it.
The teleportation power was one kind of energy in it now, as was the energy of the translation power. There was also shadow energy. The being had placed some of its red light in it earlier. He felt it in his mind now -- he couldn't figure out how -- the red light and the shadow energy were interfering with the other energies in it. They were evil energies.
A shining red circle now floated in front of the being. Now energy tendrils were melding a new shape with it. An upside-down question mark.
As it formed, Taureko's muscles screamed in pain. He was pushed back against the stone spire. Its energies pummeled him, knocking him to his feet. A leg detached.
Taureko rose an arm. Aimed at the being. Shot.
It opened a hole in itself again. But that was what Taureko wanted.
The bolt of Disintegration hit the stone wall. It collapsed into dust. Then he opened his mouth to speak.
As the being roared over his words, he sent another bolt of energy through the being. This one was of illusion. It exploded in front of Takanuva. Formed words.
Hit me with light, the words said.
An arm fell off. His vision clouded. The ground shook. Rocks broke off the ceiling, slamming into the table, the pipes. One narrowly missed the navigation computer.
Then a bright beam of light hit him. He absorbed its power.
The being roared in anger again.
But it was too late. Taureko lifted his remaining arm and touched Threshold.
White light flared throughout the cavern. Taureko commanded a beam of it to pummel the mindfire. It screeched in rage, but the energy didn't kill it.
As Taureko's other arm fell off, his almost blind eyes saw the last few tendrils slide into the upside-down question mark.
Suddenly he realized he'd been going about it all wrong. He was attacking the being in hatred. In bitterness. He'd tried to kill it like Hykehra was killed. He gasped for breath. That wasn't the way! The only way to vanquish hate was love. Bitterness shriveled before friendship. It wasn't the negative he should be focusing on but the positive! That was it!
I refuse to hate you, he thought so the being could hear in its mind. I only hope you too will learn this lesson.
His leg. He moved it. Touched Threshold. Teleportation. Far. Far from Destral.
Purple energy flew. Hit the being. Wrapped around it. Not around the red symbol. A bolt of red energy flew from the being in response.
A flash of purple light.
Takanuva felt the power of a Kanohi Halehki healing him. His muscles had stopped responding and his heart had stopped. His eyes had been fading.
Then there was a purple light, and his heart began pulsing again, though erratically. All his limbs had fallen off. He lay on the floor, still dying. But the mindfire was gone.
Kewonga must have been able to put himself back together first, because he was now standing in front of Takanuva.
The mask's power finished, and the Turaga of Light felt normal again. He took a deep breath. Kewonga went around to the others.
Takanuva sat up.
The two Makuta still stood, but they were leaning against the cavern wall unsteadily. Evil beings as they were, Cosmos Lurches never affected them as much as good beings. It really was a shame they had to be kept around. But they did.
He looked over the line of gray sand that had been the stone wall. Taureko lay next to the Threshold, only one leg attached.
As for the stone spire itself, no energy remained around it. At the last moment, the mindfire must have broken it. Would they be able to teleport Destral away from Metru Nui now? He feared not -- hopefully the Matoran had been able to evacuate. The stone tablet, now back in the form of the scroll, lay undamaged next to Taureko.
A red symbol with an upside-down question mark hovered in the air. But it was dissipating. Takanuva understood now -- this was the source of a Cosmos Lurch. Perhaps Hujo had destroyed the previous one. This one... its maker must have been teleported far away before it could be finished.
"Icarax!" the Ko-Matoran said. "Mutran. Read my mind. I won't block you."
The two Makuta looked at each other.
As they turned back towards Taureko to do so, he projected an illusion. Of himself, swimming towards Destral on a shark.
"Read the truth of the images I'm about to display," he said as Kewonga healed him. "I want my friends to understand. I see it all now, what happened, what the being that framed me did. I read it in his mind. If you sense any lie in me, say so -- knowing that I can sense lies from you as well."
And so Takanuva watched.
A reddish-orange haze of energy hid in a vent, watching Makuta Okrelox walk up a vault. It knew that Hujo and Takanuva had convinced a former slave of the Brotherhood, Taureko, to seek what was inside the vault. The scroll of languages, able to translate any text or speech for he who touched it.
Hujo knew of beings capable of changing the course of the Paracosmos War. Beings that could be a threat to the haze of energy, and to those he was loyal to. But there was a problem. They spoke a language that nobody had ever been able to translate. Without a way of translating the speech, they could not know their help was needed.
The being knew the scroll to be capable of this -- it was connected to a different kind a vault. A vault of energy more powerful than the energy haze. None truly understood the meaning of the vault but the being itself. Hujo was acting on hope alone. Foolish, but it would work if left alone.
At the same time, the Makuta were a powerful rival force. They warred against those loyal to Nhayaka. Nhayaka had always hated them. She dismissed them as just a bunch of copies from the original Cosmos, worthless pieces of shadow with ambitions far too powerful, and political reach and sheer ability even more powerful. She had been looking for an excuse to destroy the Makuta for millenia.
Now that excuse was here, for Taureko harbored all the bitterness needed to be framed for it.
It was a chance the being could not resist. If it proved itself in this way, Nhayaka would accept it, perhaps even be willing to give it authority over her fighting forces.
So it watched Makuta Okrelox take the scroll out.
This Makuta was plotting to overthrow Makuta Icarax and his second-in-command, Mutran. The being had scanned Okrelox's mind as it'd scanned Taureko's mind. The situation was perfect.
The scroll was a deadly weapon against Makuta. Okrelox had learned this long ago when his own life was nearly taken in the capturing of the tablet that Hykehra had in her energy pack. Rahi of all sorts lived on the icy mountain of Kwarotos. Okrelox and Chirox had wandered close to a pocket of caves that housed the homes of many Rahi.
Their minds had nearly overloaded then. But there weren't enough Rahi present and they survived. Okrelox saw it as an opportunity.
They had continued up the mountain, and near its peak, they found Threshold. They fit the Tablet of Languages into the stone spire, but their shadow energy prevented them from doing anything useful with it. So they took both Threshold and the Tablet. Once they arrived back at Destral, Okrelox used the memory blocker to take Chirox's memory of their near-death experience, and of the Tablet.
Chirox was so consumed by the task of turning Threshold into an island teleporter he didn't notice. In that task, he succeeded by exposing the spire to hundreds of lightstones, then hooking up a control computer. The teleportation energy that was already in it was then able to work.
Of course, this meant that the Makuta had a way to get into Kwarotos after all.
But Okrelox alone realized this, and he wanted the power for himself. So rather than ask Teridax, or later Icarax, for permission to dismantle Destral's new teleporter and take it back to the icy island, Okrelox plotted his takeover. Once he was in power, he would give himself permission.
Little did he realize that in building the Prison Portals to set the stage for the scroll to become a Makuta-killing weapon, he was setting the stage for his own death.
But the being would wait two days, until all the Makuta were present in an emergency meeting Icarax would no doubt call, so that there could be no doubt that Taureko was the murderer. The new Brotherhood leader saw the scroll as very important, since it had the power to translate any language, including ancient ones that might be used in mysterious tablets that told of ways to gain still more power.
Okrelox left the vaults.
Then Taureko came. The being entered the cavern and hid in a different aisle.
Taureko exited the vent. He walked up to the vault and put an Identity Lock picker in.
The being made a mental note to wipe Taureko's memory of the lock picker and steal it for himself. It would need the device later. The Ko-Matoran had taken a detour to an old slave meeting cave. Several tools to aid in escaping had been hidden there long ago, before Okrelox sold Taureko. The identity lock picker was one.
The lock flashed with yellow light, and the vault opened. It was empty.
Taureko searched every vault Okrelox had, thinking perhaps he'd moved it. Nothing. So Okrelox must have gotten here already.
Then Icarax's voice came over the loudspeaker. He announced that the scroll was missing. Yeah right -- Okrelox had taken it himself! Who else would steal it? Icarax announced that he was going to call an emergency meeting of all Makuta. This concerned the future of the Brotherhood, he believed, though he couldn't reveal how so. He also mentioned that he was going to contact Metru Nui and ask them if they wanted to reveal whether Taureko went back there with the scroll, since they obviously already knew of it.
Taureko snuck back out. Icarax was half right. Metru Nui knew of the scroll, thanks to him. But he didn't have it!
He crawled through the vents to Hykehra's old factory. Matoran slaves toiled away as they had for millenia. Taureko quietly made his way towards the big machine. The other Matoran didn't seem to think him anything but just another slave. He slid behind the machine.
Only to see a new protodermic seal over it.
Curious now, he left the building, and went north. He tried that cave entrance.
Blocked again. Kraataslime, he thought, the Makuta have been busy!
At this point the illusion skipped forward. "Sorry," Taureko said, grinning. "You Makuta still haven't found the tunnel I used to get in earlier, and now out again. So you'll pardon me if I don't reveal that little tidbit."
Both Makuta looked as if they'd expected it but still weren't happy about it.
"Anyway, after that I just hid in the caves until this meeting. I figured that was the best opportunity to search Okrelox's lab."
Taureko entered Okrelox's labratory during the emergency meeting. He saw the Prison Portal in the room's center, its hatch closed. Where was the scroll?
He cirled the room, digging for it in any place he thought the dirt looked disturbed. Having been forced to hide dirt markings before, he had gained a bit of an eye for what could be holes or hidden tracks. He found no scroll.
Realizing he had to hurry, he activated his mask and began knocking objects down from Okrelox's shelves. He was halfway through the shelves when he felt something strange. It was just a feeling, but it permeated the room. He felt that he was in danger. He interpreted it as his subconscious warning him that Okrelox could return at any moment. Then it occured to him.
What if it was in the Prison Portal?
So he flew over to that. By the top, there was a welded grate. Ventilation. He peeked in.
Sure enough, there was the scroll, layed out flat on the metal prison's circular floor. Just then, the feeling of danger got a lot worse. He hovered there for a second, wondering what it was. Then it passed.
He was still trying to figure out the feeling as he unthinkingly lowered himself to the prison's hatch, and turned the lockwheel.
A bright purple flash erupted out of the vent. Makuta Okrelox's voice came from inside. He sounded angry, scared. Sounds of Rahi filled the air as well. Taureko floated back, horrified. What had happened?
Then he heard Okrelox begin pounding. Protosteel armor pounding mere protometal. Not a safe combination.
So Taureko flew to the vent and got away as fast as he could.
The being waited in the vent by Threshold until it heard the sound of Taureko leaving the vents. Then it hovered through the vents to Okrelox's lab. It hid behind a large crate.
Its latest Cosmos Lurch anchor had just been finished, hidden in a cave just behind the Ta-Matoran's old hideout. It had simply made Kanoka material much more sensitive. Where before a strong punch was needed to trigger a Kanoka's power, now a mere tap would be enough. The Prison Portal's trigger used Kanoka material.
The timing had been just right so that the anchor was finished right as Taureko made the first turn of the tightly locked lockwheel. It was more than enough vibration.
Okrelox kept pounding away. But by now the Makuta had spent plenty of time by the scroll. His life was now forfeit.
The being felt proud of itself. In a way, Taureko had done something to lead to Okrelox's death. And yet the actual murder weapon, the scroll, had been placed in the Portal by the being. Who was the guilty one? That would depend on the being's identity -- and mere existence -- remaining secret. It would. Taureko was, therefore, the murderer. Nhayaka would be pleased.
Finally, Okrelox broke through the door and ran out. The being moved over to the scroll, enveloping it in its energy. The scroll's power didn't affect the being. It ignored the Rahi.
Then it picked up a small device that had been laying next to the portal and plugged it into the Portal's floor. It attached some other final parts of the machine as it knew Okrelox had planned to connect them. Being made of energy, it was able to rapidly move the parts into the right position, compared to the more clumsy approach those with physical hands must take. The device would ensure that any Makuta inside the Portal would be unable to move. So it didn't matter that the door was gone.
Then it felt the second part of its newest Cosmos Lurch go into effect. Kanoka triggering was put back to normal. But at the same time, a preservation power was extended to the Prison Portal. The scroll was an effective weapon against Makuta, but only when all three ingredients -- Makuta, scroll, Rahi -- were present. No sense in throwing away the Portal's ability to set that stage at will just yet.
Hurriedly it flew over some Confusion bombs, enveloping them in its energy as well, and a memory blocker.
Taureko was still running, when he felt the fear again. Not as bad. He wheeled around just in time to see a haze of red energy hovering behind him. It had the scroll! And several strange grenades. And... oh, no!
The being activated the memory blocker, and Taureko forgot the last two hours.
The being dropped a Confusion bomb as it fled into the vents. Then it watched Taureko stumble around in circles through the cave hallways. Finally, Taureko's senses came back to him and he disappeared from view.
The being looked at the identity lock picker, which it had taken from Taureko. It wasn't time to use it. But when the time came, no doubt would remain in anyone's mind who the murderer was.
In the vents the being waited, listening to Icarax and Mutran talk. They were in Okrelox's lab, trying to figure out what happened. They came to the conclusion the being hoped for -- Taureko did it.
There was a crashing sound. The being smiled. Icarax smashing something. It was a pleasant sound.
Then Icarax and Mutran left. As soon as they did, the being flew back in with the scroll. Back inside the Prison Portal it placed the killing device. Then it simply slapped the triggering circle and flew into the vents.
Makuta Xakmuluk appeared with a purple flash, unable to move as more Rahi appeared all around him.
This, of course, worked because Xakmuluk had last touched Makuta Okrelox. In its energy form the being itself was immune to the most powers, including the energy wreath that rested on the last to touch the scroll. The Prison Portal targeted this energy wreath. How foolish of the Makuta not to investigate yet how it worked! The program was written plainly for any scientist to read.
The being waited just long enough for all the languages to enter Xakmuluk's mind, and then it swooped down and pulled the scroll out from under Xakmuluk's feet.
Through the vents yet again it went. It hid the scroll in the Ta-Matoran's hideout.
Then it flew into the caves again, heading right for the hidden cave it knew Taureko would be in. When it came near, it dropped another confusion bomb.
Two Makuta. Exo-Toa. Guards.
The being had expected better. Its need for secrecy meant it could not kill when both Makuta were present. But the two had been given orders that implied only one needed to stand guard.
And nobody had been assigned to remove Xakmuluk's body. A foolish mistake. Wonderful.
So Vishrahk took the task upon herself. She thought to study it, as she studied Okrelox's body, and as she studied the bodies of Matoran, Rahi, or others who died in failed experiments. But she wondered if she might be the next target. So she returned, and asked Bitil instead to go make the analysis. She thought herself safer if she personally guarded the Portal.
The being killed her before Bitil could reach the body.
It did it by stealing a wire from Teridax's old lab, and hiding in the vent above. It touched one end to the scroll, and lowered the wire out of the vent. Touched Vishrahk's armor. She didn't even realize it happened -- but the energy wreath now passed to her.
Then the being hovered over the Exo-Toa with the scroll. The robot's cameras weren't designed to look that high up. Plus they were mostly watching the cavern's entrance, not the Portal, though they did occasionally glance at it.
Carefully the being lowered itself into the Portal and left the scroll there. It stepped out and slapped the trigger circle as an Exo-Toa spotted it.
A purple flash. Vishrahk now stood immobile inside the Portal. The being decimated the robots with a red energy whip. It made sure to destroy their processing and memory storage units.
But one Exo-Toa grabbed the scroll and ran out of the room with it, pressing a button on the wall that triggered the alarm.
The being raced after it, sensing that Bitil was returning. The robot had been one of the last few the being attacked, so it had figured out what the whip could do. It was cleverly dodging every attack.
The being heard Bitil coming. Desperately, it zoomed at the robot, enveloping it. Then it hit the lock to the first door of Threshold with red energy. The lock gave way.
The being carried the robot inside. The Exo-Toa struggled, but it couldn't break free of the red energy.
When it sensed that Bitil's back was turned, the being went back out into the hallway and took the robot to a protometal reclamation furnace. There were slaves working there. They gasped in terror at the sight of the being, but it used the memory blocker on them.
Finally it got the scroll out of the robot's hand, and dumped it into a furnace. Then it left to use another confusion bomb on Taureko.
Many more Makuta guards stood in front of Okrelox's lab, making another murder virtually impossible. But the being bided its time.
After a while, it discovered where the Makuta had taken all the Rahi from the three murders.
It also discovered that Bitil had taken Vishrahk's body out. So unless someone else touched him, he'd be the next victim. Not a problem -- Bitil was on unfriendly terms with Icarax. It wouldn't be a stretch to guess that Taureko was killing off anybody who may have been part of Okrelox's takeover attempt.
But events got out of control. Hujo arrived with Takanuva's investigation team. The one who could destroy the Cosmos Lurch anchor. Curse Taureko for finding a way to force Icarax to let them come. The being had not accounted for this. Taureko was resourceful. It might not be enough to simply frame him. He would have to be hurt.
It got worse. Hujo found a way into the Ta-Matoran's lab. How, the being couldn't imagine. But Hujo would undoubtedly destroy the anchor symbol with the blue fire.
Taureko will pay for this, the being thought angrily. So will Hujo. So will all of their friends.
Its chance came just moments before Hujo entered the old hideout. The being discovered that Hujo was using the Songsphere to travel in -- so he'd have to travel to Mata Nui to get out. Destral was now floating just off that island's shores. What was more, Makuta Mutran was trying to modify the Portal so that he could use it to overthrow Icarax.
Mutran activated the portal, bringing in Rahi.
Rahi which then needed to be taken to the prison's cages.
The being beat Mutran there. Mutran was a problem -- Taureko had no good reason to kill him. But to the being's delight, Bitil came as well. The being left the scroll laying against the prison metal. As soon as Bitil touched the metal, he was struck with the scroll's power, like electricity from a live wire.
The being hoped that Mutran would see what was happening and avoid a death. Mutran would then conclude that Bitil was being targeted. Unfortunately, Mutran touched the metal too. Both Makuta ran away screaming.
There was no time to see what happened to them. The being took up the scroll and moved to leave.
Then it saw the reptilian being.
What it had mistaken for just another Rahi was in fact intelligent -- capable of speaking. It was named Bhukasa, the being remembered from when it had spied on and mentally scanned those Takanuva brought off the boat. Of course! The Makuta had led Bhukasa away as if a prisoner.
Bhukasa was staring right at the being. So the red energy attacked him. It struck him with the red whip. The energy acted like a Cosmos lurch. Bhukasa would soon die.
Having no time to waste, the being flew back to Okrelox's lab. It had a chance to take Hujo out of the equation -- a chance it must act on.
It waited until the guards left, in concern over Mutran and Bitil's condition. Then it swiftly wrote a final program on the Prison Portal, telling it to now target any Makuta in the vicinity of Threshold. The lock picker helped it fake Taureko's signature, though it had to hold the picker with its red energy tendrils to modify it enough to work.
It activated the program. The two Makuta appeared in the portal.
But the being took the scroll away and fled into the vents too early for those two to die. It was merely a distraction and a ploy to take them away from Threshold -- and the guards would come running as soon as they saw the flash. The two guards might later tell what they saw, but the story Icarax and Mutran would hear would fit what they saw -- that the mindfire had been changed by the Cosmos Lurch to set free one of Taureko's personalities -- Taureko the Bitter.
Then it reached Threshold. Carefully it studied the programs on the computer device. It was just a bunch of numbers and code, with a description line behind every teleportation command. This would be harder than it thought.
It reached out with its mind to search for Makuta who knew how the code worked.
Many Makuta had that knowledge. The being was about to pull its mind back in when it sensed Taureko. Taureko had discovered Destral's outpost.
Rapidly the being zoomed through the caves. Must hurry! Taureko could NOT be allowed to escape Destral. It also sensed that Hujo had already left on the Songsphere after destroying the anchor symbol. There was very little time.
Finally it reached the outpost. There was a stone column hiding the open hatch -- a belief illusion. But it didn't matter. Evil could not enter the outposts.
Taureko was close. He was opening the outpost's special hatch!
Desperately the being ran scenarios through its mind. How could he stop Taureko now?
A friend. Yes, yes, this was good. Keep to the multiple personalities theme. Taureko was supposed to be the Freer. The friend of his friends. The being was supposed to be Taureko the bitter. The truth was, Taureko had buried all multiple personalities in Zivon's realm -- the bitterness was inside him in the same way it was inside the being. But Taureko didn't quite realize it.
So the being brushed against Taureko's mind. It allowed him to sense that Bhukasa had been attacked.
It listened with its mind. Taureko had paused.
Then the Ko-Matoran turned and climbed up the ladder.
The being dropped its last confusion bomb and fled.
Finally, it coded Threshold to appear near the ceiling of Metru Nui's dome directly over that island's center, and then it waited for the events it knew were about to unfold.
Takanuva watched Taureko continue to tell the story. He now showed them what had happened while the stone wall had blocked their view of the battle. What Taureko had sensed in the being's mind. The truth.
Taureko had been framed. Takanuva sighed. It was a relief. But in a way it was the opposite -- to think that a being so powerful had done it was terrifying. Even worse the fact that this being was helping the growing threat of Nhayaka's forces.
"And that's all," Taureko said, looking at Icarax. "Do you sense any lie in my words?"
The Makuta shrugged. "You tell the truth. You are innocent."
Taureko smiled, and reached down to the scroll. Orange flames zoomed up into his hand. "I'm absorbing the scroll's power. I wanted the scroll itself, but we've made a deal. You can have it, in return for our safe passage off Destral. You agree?"
Icarax looked around. "Destral is about to smash Metru Nui -- that was where I agreed you could return. As soon as that Unknown releases the Vahi, where will you go? As far as I'm concerned, the only deal I made is that I wouldn't kill you. Mutran, do you think we could undo his ability to absorb powers?"
Takanuva held up his staff and pumped light energy into it from the Avhokii. "The deal is that Taureko and all of us go free. You are free to leave Destral alive."
"I won't take orders from--"
"Would you like to be frozen in time again, Icarax?" Taureko said. "All I have to do is think it and my absorption power is withdrawn from you. Should be interesting to see what happens to protosteel armor in an island collision..."
Icarax sneered. "Very well. Give me the scroll!"
Taureko handed it to him. Icarax stormed out. Mutran gave them a glance, then he followed.
Takanuva glanced at Taureko. "You know, there are hundreds of slaves on Destral. They'll all be killed."
Taureko grinned. "Ah, my friend, you forget. I am Taureko the Freer!"
This post has been edited by bonesiii: May 26 2009, 10:50 AM
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